THis was a sermon I delivered this morning at Silver Springs Community Church in Silver Springs, NV.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Ambassadors for Christ
Good morning, everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5.
One of the things I hear a lot, talking with Christians and especially when they are trying to figure out the right thing to do, or the right way to act or the right way to live, is that the Bible isn’t clear. What they actually mean is that it is not as clear as they want it to be.
Over the last number of years, I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.
And my point is not going to be that, for many circumstances, one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here, on many subjects. The scripture is also clear that there are many subjects where we have no say over right or wrong because God has spelled it out crystal clear in his Word.
When Gods Word is clear that one action is clearly wrong, then we need to read it clearly. But often, the Bible gives principles and ways of thinking, ways of looking at things and filtering things around us that, if we follow these biblical principles, will guide us just as clearly as when the Bible says, do this, don’t do that.
In that vein, the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.
That brings us to our text this morning. But first, let me pray.
We will be looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 17-21. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, but I encourage you to grab your preferred translation and follow along with me, reading and seeing for yourself what the word of God says.
2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.
It’s easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than what this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the same standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standard, whereas non-Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.
We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. We are called to die to ourselves daily. We are called to bear our cross.
We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness. Jesus tells those around him, in the Sermon on the Mount that unless our righteousness exceeds even that of the Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of Heaven. We will expand on that in a bit, but the good news is that even though we can’t have enough of our own righteousness, we, if we are in Christ, and remember we looked at what the right understanding if that was a few weeks ago, if we are in Christ, we now have His perfect and saving righteousness.
But this idea, this concept that we are not to respond to people how they treat us, that we are to hold to a higher standard of behavior, heart and attitude, this is a foreign concept to much of the world. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to. This is a concept born of the flesh.
But we are called to those ideas and concepts born of the Spirit.
Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.
Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything in regard to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.
Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ. Those who are In Christ.
But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.
Now, the passage here, starts with Paul showing us that our duty is to treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.
But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity, and it changes our nature.
We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.
Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.
When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God. My favorite title given to us in the scriptures.
We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be, but what it is. And we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.
We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.
God uses us. He entrusts us with the message of the Gospel, with the ministry of reconciliation. He makes His appeal through us. God can do anything. People often say, don’t put God in a box. The truth is that He decides what Boxes he is put in, to use that terminology. God himself chooses how to save those who will be saved. He chooses to do so by his grace, through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. Aul writes in Romans 10, Faith comes by hearing, hearing of the word of Christ. He writes here, starting in verse 18, listen to what Paul is writing:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God chooses who and how. He does it all. He chooses to use us, our words, our actions, our faith and testimony to show people who He is, the truth of His Word and his saving grace. And the only way to be reconciled through God is through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by God’s grace we put our faith in his son.
A few scripture passages:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,
Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”
So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.
Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an ambassador.
We are messengers, as we have already touched on. But we are more than that. To start, think about movies and TV where you see a foreign ambassador. What are they? What do they do? They are messengers, relaying the message of their country’s leader, for sure. They also represent their culture, their kingdom, their citizenship to a foreign land, where they are strangers and aliens.
One friend of mine described it this way:
“If you’re the United States Ambassador to Germany, you fly into Germany, you drive through Germany, but when you get to the physical US Embassy, you are literally on your country’s sovereign ground. The Ambassador would speak for the US and represent the US as German politicians came to the Embassy. So as a Christian, I am living in a nation not my own. When I talk to people, I represent the Kingdom of Christ. So, I invite people over to show them how Christ, my king, would treat them. When I speak, I represent the way Christ Speaks, his Word. Especially in this culture and climate, I may be the only representative of Christ they ever see.”
How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?
We are to be the messenger, the one who proclaims the message that our King has already proclaimed. We are to share what our Kings non negotiables are, the closed handed issues. We are to listen to and compromise on the things that don’t mean as much, that are open handed issues. We are to communicate and share our sympathies and share in the grief when something happens in this world, that is not our home, but is where we are sent to serve and to be the Ambassador too.
In a saying attributed to St Augustine, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, charity.”
And so that begs the question: What are the essentials, and what are the non-essentials?
One of the biggest reasons that this is one of my favorite titles that we are given is because of what it tells us about what God expects from us. As we said before, these principles that the Bible communicates are a guide for how we are to act in, think through and about and filter all circumstances. Whatever comes up, if we understand the principles of this passage, we will know what we are supposed to do, we will know what the will of God is.
Treat all people at all times with Christlikeness.
Trust in and be reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.
Act as the New Creation in Christ that you are.
Implore others, on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.
Represent your kingdom, the Kingdom of God with all the authority given to you by Christ to represent Him to the people of this world, which is not our home. We are strangers and aliens, exiles and sojourners, in a land that is not our own. Ambassadors, disciples, subjects to a Sovereign King, a Child of God, adopted and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Freely saved, by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
Now, we go and act like it.